The chairman has his excuses ready when asked about endowments
'Here's something I've been meaning to ask about for some time,' I said to the chairman of the insignificantly-sized investment company SmallBlue Planet as we sat drinking pints of Partick Ned's Badger in The Biting Cuddy. 'It's about endowments.'
'I'll do my best,' promised the chairman. 'But you must remember that I didn't understand the things even when we were selling them through our life arm back at the old place. So once I'd sold everything to Dullbank, I decided never to touch them again. Still, ask away and, as I said, I'll do my best.'
'It's funny you should mention Dullbank,' I said. 'I've just received a letter from Dullbank Life & Pensions saying that, almost exactly halfway through its 25-year term, my endowment is on course to pay back almost exactly half of what it was supposed to when I took it out.'
'Hang on a moment,' interrupted the chairman. 'You're not telling me you actually bought an endowment from us back in the Nineties? Are you insane?'
'That's funny,' I replied. 'I really can't recall any of your ads saying 'You don't have to be mad to buy an endowment but it helps'. Still, don't worry ' this isn't a mis-selling question.
'You and I both know that the majority of so-called industry scandals are only flagged up by the press if they've actually affected personal finance journalists, their bosses or people they meet at dinner parties.'
'That's why as much has been written on the old split caps pantomime as on the entire pensions mis-selling scandals of the past decade,' observed the chairman.
'I couldn't possibly comment,' I said. 'But what I would say is that no matter how tragically my own personal finance decisions turn out, I do try to take some sort of balanced view on who's responsible before I reach for an ombudsman.
'So, although I wasn't involved with Her Majesty's financial services industry back in 1991 and I signed the papers crippled by a hangover that still makes me cry whenever I think about it, I'm not actually bothered your salesman was so dead set on saddling me with an endowment.
'After all, it did mean I got a cheaper mortgage. Then there's the life assurance aspect and if ' and I know this is rather a large if ' Dullbank can this time round actually manage to hit its new growth projections, in a bit over a decade I should have a tidy sum of cash coming through.
'What's more, I know that one of the reasons my plan hasn't grown so much is an economic environment that also helped to reduce my mortgage payments. As such, if I were a responsible investor, which of course I'm not, I would have put a little extra by for the rainy day it turns out Dullbank had been busy brewing all along.'
'Then what's your point?' asked the chairman. 'You have me a little worried now because I think you've been through all the excuses we drew up for our complaints department to use all those years ago.'
'Hopefully,' I said. 'So here's my question. Despite all I've said about personal responsibility, life assurance, nest egg and so forth, one thing about Dullbank's letter to me ' and no doubt about thousands of similar letters sent out by them and their competitors ' still beggars belief.
'Having admitted my current plan is going to fall well short thanks to their, er, extraordinary investment performance ' and that despite the life of my policy having taken in one of the most striking periods of growth of the past century ' Dullbank are actually suggesting I consider another savings plan.
'Have they never heard of 'once bitten, twice shy'? What in the name of Nicola Horlick's pay rise makes them think I would ever again deal with a company whose investment performance I would back my cat to beat? You ask if I was mad to buy an endowment in the first place ' I'd have to be managing a European Gherkin fund to fall for it again. What on earth can they be thinking?'
'I guess we industry types are just incurable optimists at heart,' replied the chairman. 'Whether it be those initial projections you received, our belief that 1999 would go on forever or, frankly, any advertising we do at all. As for your letter, they just reckon there's no harm in asking. Anyway, feel better now you've got that rant off your chest?'
'A bit,' I said. 'For now.'
Two global vehicles
'Further plug advice gap'
Must appoint separate CEOs and boards
Advisers do come out well
Will report to Mark Till